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Donald Trump threatens Venezuela with 'economic actions'

US President Donald Trump has threatened action against his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro, whom he called a "bad leader who dreams of becoming a dictator." The political impasse in Venezuela has intensified.

US President Donald Trump on Monday threatened "strong and swift economic actions" against President Nicolas Maduro's government in Venezuela if it proceeds with plans for a July 30 election to choose an assembly to retool the constitution. The American leader's warning came shortly after nearly 7.2 million Venezuelans rejected Maduro's proposed changes in a non-binding referendum. 

"The United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles," Trump said in a statement, adding that in that the voters' "strong and courageous actions continue to be ignored by a bad leader who dreams of becoming a dictator."

Read more: EU holds off on sanctions amid growing unrest in Venezuela

Venezuelan opposition leaders on Monday said they would launch a plan called "zero hour" on Wednesday that will include an agreement to form an alternate government and creating 2,000 local committees to function as street-level support for the opposition. 

Venezuela Oppositionelle Abgeordnete Freddy Guevara in Carracas (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Cubillos)

Opposition leader Freddy Guevara called on civilians to continue their actions against the Maduro government

The opposition also said it would name 13 judges to the supreme court to replace those installed by the outgoing, ruling party-dominated congress in 2015 in a process widely regarded to have violated nomination procedures.

"We call on the whole country to launch a 24-hour national strike this Thursday, a massive, non-violent protest, as a way to pressure the government and to prepare for the final steps, which will be next week, to confront this fraud ... and to restore constitutional order," opposition leader Freddy Guevara said. He didn't say what the final steps would be. Guevara also announced the plan on Twitter.

The opposition coalition United Democracy Roundtable (MUD) won control of the legislature in December 2015 and began calling for a referendum to remove President Nicolas Maduro and hold new elections.

Maduro has said the opposition's move doesn't count and he'll go ahead with the scheduled July 30 vote on creating a new "constitutent assembly" which will have the right to annul the current opposition-led parliament and change the constitution.

Watch video 02:01

85% of Venezuelans oppose constitution changes

Politics of symbols

Some 98.4 percent of Venezuelans voted against the planned constitutional changes in a non-binding referendum organized by the opposition last week. At least two people were killed during the voting.

Voters were asked three questions: whether they want Maduro to resign, whether they reject his plan to convene a special assembly that would rewrite the nation's constitution, and whether the country's armed forces should be called on to defend the constitution.

The government refused to recognize the plebiscite.

More than three months of street protests have left at least 93 people dead and 1,500 wounded, with over 500 protesters and government opponents have been jailed.

Venezuela is suffering an economic crisis, with an acute shortage in basic goods and the world's highest inflation rate. 

Venezuelan National Assembly President Julio Borges on Sunday demanded that Maduro be "rational" and listen to the voice of the people. "If he doesn't, there not only will be more violence, but it will cause the fall of his government," Borges said in an interview broadcast Monday.

jbh/rc (dpa, AP)

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